IMLS Announces National Study on Museums, Libraries, and Social Wellbeing
“From an IMLS News Release (Full Text):
Building on a growing body of work conducted by IMLS and others over the past several years, the Institute of Museum and Library Services today announced the commencement of a new study, Understanding the Social Wellbeing Impacts of the Nation’s Libraries and Museums.
The goal of the year-long project is to gain a better understanding on a national level of the conditions under which museums and libraries contribute to quality of life and wellbeing in the communities they serve. The new study will focus on these institutions’ essential roles within a community to help them demonstrate the success and impact of their programs and services.
Building upon IMLS’s 2016 study Strengthening Networks, Sparking Change: Museums and Libraries as Community Catalysts, this new research is grounded in the social wellbeing framework that looks beyond economic outputs to assess the relative wellness of individuals, communities, and nations. It recognizes that while people value their material standard of living, other factors also matter, including cultural engagement, economic and ethnic diversity, political voice, and social connections.
The study aligns with the IMLS Strategic Plan, Transforming Communities, by strengthening the capacity of museums and libraries to improve the wellbeing of their communities. The research will quantify 10 dimensions of social wellbeing at the county level across the nation that represent material standard of living, economic and ethnic diversity, health, school effectiveness, housing quality, political connection, the presence of cultural institutions and nonprofit organizations in the community, the environment, and personal safety. The study will identify counties where the presence of museums and libraries is most strongly associated with different factors of social wellbeing.
“Approaching this study using the social wellbeing framework acknowledges the many ways that libraries and museums positively impact people and communities beyond a baseline assessment of economic impact.” said IMLS Director Dr. Kathryn K. Matthew. “This study seeks to not only demonstrate that community wellbeing is enhanced by the presence of libraries and museums, but also how these anchor institutions truly move the needle.”
The research encompasses literature review of other studies’ findings, data analysis from publicly available sources, and comparative case studies, and the results will be compiled into three issue briefs and a synthesis report for dissemination.
IMLS will conduct the research in partnership with the Policy Solutions Group at Reinvestment Fund, a leading innovator in the financing, analysis, and design of neighborhood and economic revitalization efforts; Social Impact of the Arts Project, a research group at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Social Policy & Practice; and HR&A Advisors, an industry-leading consulting firm that excels at developing sophisticated and market-tested models to measure the impact of development projects and policies in terms of job creation, wages, tax revenues, and overall economic activity.
This new study, Understanding the Social Wellbeing Impacts of the Nation’s Libraries and Museums, was initiated under the umbrella of IMLS’s flagship Community Catalyst Initiative. The program, which has the long-term goal of developing new approaches, tools, and training for museums and libraries to help them become more sustained and adaptive partners within their communities, works to elevate the essential, impactful “anchor” and “catalyst” roles that these institutions play.